Every so often, a game slides onto the release schedule that none of us here at Short Pause know anything about. Jazzpunk is very much one of those titles. We’d heard it’s an adventure game oozing with style, and that’s about it. Regardless of how little I knew about the title, I was intrigued, even more so after watching the absurd launch trailer a few days prior to the game’s launch. I was pleasantly surprised by the utter madness that ensued once I found myself in The Director’s office being briefed for my first mission.
Title: Jazzpunk - Director's Cut
Release Date: 9/20/16
Developer: Necrophone Games
Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac, Linux
Jazzpunk is a first-person adventure game that feels like something the folks behind my childhood cartoon of choice – Ren & Stimpy – would have concocted if they made a game. Players will step into the shoes of Polyblank, a detective for an espionage agency of sorts. I will tell you right now that the story is literally as cohesive as an episode of Ren & Stimpy, so those looking for a great and/or serious story will probably find themselves put off by the quirky characters and nonsensical world that Necrophone Games has crafted. Comedy and references to classic 80’s movies and gaming trends take point here, and they help Jazzpunk stand out as one of the most unique gaming experiences of the year.
Gameplay is pretty simplistic, but that’s by design as the story is clearly meant to take center stage. The narrative is a ridiculously fun time, so in order for players to experience the story with the least amount of resistance, objectives tend to be pretty easy to figure out. If the obvious clues in the environment don’t help you understand what you should be doing, there is a phone with a help line to send you in the right direction should you find yourself baffled at how to proceed. Exploration is encouraged, and players would be doing themselves a disservice by not searching the environment and stumbling upon some of the great tucked away throwback references like Wedding Qake or a fight between Some Honda and Polyblanka. The barebones controls do feel like they hold some of these goofy gems back, as players really only have a single button to attack or shoot with, but the ridiculousness of what’s happening at any given time makes it easy to overlook.
The game’s design is where Jazzpunk truly shines as the world is extremely whimsical. The world is littered with characters and interactive items possessing traits from popular shows such as Inspector Gadget and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and video games such as Frogger and Quake (as alluded to above). Jazzpunk puts its own weird spin on these pop culture icons and makes them showpieces for the absurd world that Polyblank exists within. Wearing its comical value on its sleeve, the game delivers quality spoofs mixed with its own outlandish events — including gravy boat racing and some alternate reality insanity — without wearing out its welcome in the two and a half hours it took me to make my way through the bizarre tale.
After watching that initial launch trailer, if you had told me that Jazzpunk would be a game that I’d have fallen in love with I’d have laughed in your face. If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s to give more games that I’m uncertain about a chance and, yet again, that mindset has paid off big time. Coming off of some more serious, story driven affairs like Deus Ex and the latest Destiny expansion – Rise of Iron — Jazzpunk is that perfect piece of mindless entertainment. It’s a game that will constantly impress you with the absolute madness going on at any given time. Don’t be surprised to see this very odd gem resurface on my Game of the Year list at the end of 2016. I loved it that much. It may seem out of place at first glance, but I can promise you now that if you give the game a chance, you’ll likely fall in love with Jazzpunk too.
- An absurdly outlandish story
- Great use of comedy and spoofs
- Fantastic level design
- Simplistic objectives and controls